Joseph Smith – Leadership

Inspiring Stories

Instrument in Hand’s of God

. . . among the many he [Joseph Knight, Sr.] from time to time employed was a young man by the name of Joseph Smith, Jun., to whom I was particularly attached. His noble deportment, his faithfulness and his kind address could not fail to win the esteem of those who had the pleasure of his acquaintance. One thing I will mention, which seemed to be a peculiar characteristic with him in all his boyish sports and amusements: I never knew any one to gain advantage over him, and yet he was always kind and kept the good will of his playmates.

We were frequently visited by my young friend, Joseph Smith, who would entertain us with accounts of the wonderful things which had happened to him. It was evident to me that great things were about to be accomplished through him—that the Lord was about to use him as an instrument in His hands to bring to pass the great and mighty work of the last days. This chosen instrument told us of God’s manifestations to him, of the discovery and receiving of the plates from which the Book of Mormon was translated, of his persecutions for the gospel’s sake, and of many other items of his eventful life.

So honest and plain were all his statements that there was no room for any misgivings with me on the subject. Besides, I found by reading and searching the Bible that there would be a great falling away from the gospel as preached and established by Jesus and His apostles, that in the last days God would set His hand again to restore that which was lost. 1

Disharmony of Sylvester Smith

On the first of May, 1834, I started for Carthage County, some forty miles from Kirtland, to go with Zion’s Camp. I was appointed cook for Sylvester Smith’s mess. In this way we traveled, being directed by the Prophet in peace, until Sylvester lost the spirit of peace and became dissatisfied with John Carter, and called him an old jackass and many other names, which soon brought dissatisfaction in our tent. Some dared to express their feelings, until Joseph rebuked them and told them that Sylvester was guilty of sowing the seeds of discord.

Sylvester said, if Joseph was a prophet he was not afraid, and would contradict him in the face of all present. Joseph said, “If I have not told you the truth, then God never spoke by me,” and walked off. We all said, “That is enough.” We believed Joseph. Sylvester became more calm and acted like a saint, and for some time we had peace. We did not stop, but continued on our march westward until we got in Illinois. Joseph then said, “I want you to remember what I say to you. The Lord is going to give us dry weather now until we get through. He has given rains that there might be water on the prairies. You will see the movings of the Lord in our favor all the way through.” . . .

We continued our march westward. I had made me an elder fife, and played some marches on the way to the camp, being led by Sylvester Smith. As soon as we came in sight of camp, a dog came. He began to bark and ran to Sylvester and tried to bite him. It made Sylvester mad, and he said he would kill that dog.

Joseph said he should not, and he would whip any man who would do it. If Sylvester had a good spirit he could get along without being bit. It was a man’s being overcome with such a spirit that caused him always to try to take vengeance and seek an opportunity to do it, and take life. Such a spirit kept men in misery. Sylvester would not believe it. Joseph said, “If you do not get rid of that feeling, you will have your flesh eaten off from you and you cannot help it.” He would not believe Joseph yet.

Once after this, Joseph on the same principle said, “If a man should have to fight in self defense and kill his enemy, he should say in his heart, ‘I wish it might have been otherwise, but you sought to take my life and would not let me alone and I was obliged to take yours. If you ever go to battle and are prospered over your enemies and slay them, I fear you will be tempted to boast. If you should boast of your own strength, I fear God will leave you.” 2

Counsel to Brother Haun

Everyone has probably heard or read of the terrible massacre at Haun’s Mill. Brother Haun owned a grist mill which took his name. From two to four days prior to the massacre, the citizens of the little settlement assembled in a mass meeting and appointed Brother Haun a committee of one to go to the city for advice to know what to do. The whole county was under arms and excitement. The Apostle David W. Patten, with Brothers Gideon Carter and O’Banion, had already sealed their testimony with their blood.

Brother Haun repaired to the city, and as the Prophet was but a private citizen and minister of the gospel, in the legal sense, he first went to Captain John Killian, of the Caldwell County Militia, informed him of his appointment, and inquired what he and his brethren should do.

“Move into the city,” was the prompt reply.

Brother Haun: “What! And leave the mill?”

Captain Killian: “Yes, and leave the mill.”

Brother Haun: “What! To the mob?”

Captain Killian: “Yes, to the mob.”

Brother Haun then left the Captain and went to Brother Joseph and asked him the same questions, and received the same answers.

“But Brother Joseph,” responded the mill-owner, “we think we are strong enough to defend the mill and keep it in our own hands.”

“Oh, well,” replied he, “if you think you are strong enough to hold the mill you can do as you think best.

“What more could he say? The Prophet’s method had always been when his counsel was asked to give it freely and leave parties to receive or reject it. He could not, nor would not if he could, take away people’s agency.

Brother Haun returned and reported that Brother Joseph’s counsel was for them to stay and protect or hold the mill. 3

James Henry Rollins

On June 1, 1834, the first news came of the arrival of Zion’s Camp in Missouri. Joseph the Prophet and his brother William, with Dr. F. G. Williams and several others, stayed at our place. But the majority of the camp went to the farm of John Burk, where many were stricken with the cholera and died.

George A. Smith and Jesse Smith were about my own age. We three were out in the road trying to get a ball out of a pistol which had got wet at Fishing River. We were all three quite merry and were laughing a great deal, when Jesse made the remark, “We had not ought to be out here making so much noise, while there are so many of our brethren sick and dying in the house. We don’t know how soon some of us may be taken.”

We then went in the house. In a short time this noble boy was struck with the cholera. Joseph and his brethren worked over him, but fever took hold of him and with all they could do for him it availed them nothing. He died lying on the floor of our largest room.
Joseph took the death of this noble boy very hard, as he undoubtedly had been entrusted with his care by the boy’s parents. 4

Benjamin F. Johnson

In the summer of 1833, a mob drove the Saints from Jackson County. Zion’s Camp was prepared to start, in which I desired to accompany the brethren. But the Prophet deemed it best for me not to go, owing to the opposition of my father, and as I had not yet received my baptism. I was assured by the Prophet Joseph that no loss should come to me for waiting, for although not fully a member I had partaken of every hope, desire, and spiritual influence with which those around me were animated.5

Joseph Fielding

On the 7th, same [1843], of March a meeting was called and several addresses delivered by the Prophet and others on some evils in the city. Several received a severe exposure in the Church and out. Of the latter was the brother of R. D. Foster. He asked in the congregation if Mr. Hyrum Smith alluded to him in his remarks, but did not get a direct answer. He then asked Mr. Joseph Smith if he meant him. Brother Joseph Smith asked why he thought so, but he repeated the question and said if you will not hear me, you soon shall hear from me. Did you allude to me? When Brother Joseph Smith answered, you say it, and bid the officers to take him and fine [him] 5 or 10 dollars I forget which. His Brother R. D. [Foster] then spoke to justify him and clear him of censure, and after exchanging a few words, Brother Joseph Smith told him to hold his tongue or he would fine him too. Thus it ended for the time, but the reproof and exposure which he and several others had received stirred up feelings that could not be suppressed.6

  1. “Newel Knight’s Journal,” in Scraps of Biography (Faith Promoting Series, Volume 10) (Salt Lake City, 1883), pp. 47-65; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], pp. 6-7
  2. Levi Hancock, “Life story of Levi W. Hancock,” Brigham Young University Library, pp. 47-49, 73-82; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], pp. 20-22
  3. Daniel Tyler, The Juvenile Instructor, XXVII (February 1, 1892), pp. 93-95; (February 15, 1892), pp. 127-128; (August 15, 1892), pp. 491-492; XXVIII (May 15, 1893), p. 332; Hyrum L. Andrus and Helen Mae Andrus, comps., They Knew the Prophet [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 52.
  4. A Sketch of the Life of James Henry Rollins, Church Historian’s Library, Salt Lake City, Utah.
  5. “They Knew the Prophet” [Salt Lake City: Bookcraft, 1974], 90
  6. Diary of Joseph Fielding, 1797-1863
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